This article is part of our Handicapping the Octagon series.
The reality of Fight Island will be upon us in a matter of days, which means it's time to take a look at our card to determine where bettors can potentially make some money. All of the favorites were just a little too wide for me to pick outright in one respect or another, but we've fixed that by turning two sizeable favorites into sizeable dogs via prop plays. As always, I have limited my looks to lines below (-200), as I feel that anything more expensive is supposed to come in, and doesn't really require a writeup. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article. Without any further ado, let's get to it.
Makwan Amirkhani (15-4-0) vs. Danny Henry (12-3-0) Weight Class: Featherweight
Henry's two-fight win streak in the UFC was snapped rather unceremoniously by Dan Ige, who caught him with a left hook before choking him out in March of 2019. The holes in Henry's standup game have been found over and over again in the UFC, and it's a credit to his toughness that he has been able to have the level of success he's had in the organization.
Enter Amirkhani, who has fought a slew of talented grapplers during his time in the UFC, boasting a 5-2 record over that span. While he may not be much of a standup fighter, he can still snap off a quick jab every now and again, and he's a willing wrestler/grappler, averaging nearly 3.5 takedowns per 15 minutes of cage time. One thing that's impossible to overstate here is just how much faster (in terms of footwork and hand speed) "Mr. Finland" will be inside the cage. He also fires nice, straight punches, which means he should be able to find a counter or two when Henry comes with his big, looping strikes.
In the end, I simply doubt that Henry's toughness will be able to compensate for the composure and finishing ability of Amirkhani, and his ability to keep himself safe gives me confidence that Henry won't simply find a counter strike as he did against Hakeem Dawodu. Amirkhani's finishing splits (11 submissions against one KO/TKO) tell us that the likely path here is by sub, but there isn't a huge difference in price between the "any finish" play and the "finish by submission" prop (+175). Thus, I see no reason not to include KO/TKO for insurance, particularly since Henry has been known to take a beating.
The play: Makwan Amirkhani by KO/TKO/DQ/or submission: + 130
Martin Day (8-3-0) vs. Davey Grant (11-4-0) Weight class: Bantamweight
It's easy to see why Martin Day stands out as a fighter: he's long, mixes his targets well and can do a little bit of everything inside the cage. But all of that potential and flash hides some serious holes in the game of the 31-year-old that I believe Grant will be able to exploit.
The main thing is how easily Day gets backed up to the cage in his fights, effectively negating the reach advantage he carries to the cage. Not only does this take away one of his best weapons, but it also makes him easier to hit and be taken down. In fact, Day has faced significant adversity in both his UFC debut and his appearance on the Contender Series, winning both of those fights by remaining the fresher fighter throughout.
It doesn't appear he will have that luxury against someone like Grant, who carries his cardio late in fights and showcases a strong fundamental striking game paired with good athleticism. They may have a similar number of career bouts, but Grant is now a five-fight veteran in the UFC spanning back to 2013, which should pay dividends on the big stage.
The Pick: Davey Grant +160
Karoline Rosa (12-3-0) vs. Vanessa Melo (10-7-0) Weight class: Bantamweight
Rosa had a bit of a back-and-forth war with Tracy Cortez in her UFC debut, and while she ate more shots than one would like to see, she showed a nice jab along with an ability to counter with solid shots. That fight ultimately ended in a split-decision, but Rosa did register a knockdown in the third round of that fight, catching her opponent as she dipped off to the side to avoid a strike.
How does this translate to the matchup against Melo? While Rosa does keep her head straight up in the air, Melo's slow, winging punches don't exactly carry power behind them, as she has yet to register a stoppage by strikes in her 17-fight MMA career. She also plods after her opponents with poor footwork, so Rosa should be able to keep herself a bit safer than she did in her 2019 bout.
Some may see the lack of finishes on Rosa's record and conclude this bet is too risky. It's worth noting, however, that five of Rosa's last six wins have ended with some kind of stoppage, so it's fair to say that the 25-year-old may be rounding into form. Moreover, since Vegas expects this fight to go to the judges, we get the opportunity to turn an active, aggressive fighter on a finishing tear from a large favorite to a large dog. That is simply too juicy for me to pass up.
The Play: Karoline Rosa by KO/TKO/DQ/or submission +350
Rose Namajunas (8-4-0) vs. Jessica Andrade (20-7-0) Weight class: Strawweight
I'm not sure I've ever seen the winner of a fight by KO come into a rematch as a sizable underdog, but the first matchup between Andrade and Namajunas wasn't your typical MMA fight. Rose was lighting her opponent up with jabs and hooks while creating angles to keep clear of her attacks through most of Round 1. So, what happened?
The most obvious point is that Andrade is a fighter who just keeps on coming. Rose is athletic and relies on her movement, but it has to be exhausting having to evade and fight off the backfoot for an extended period of time. This proved true in Round 2 of the bout when Andrade (with the help of some well-placed leg kicks) was able to close Rose down much easier than in the previous frame. The culmination of this was a high-crotch lift slam that saw Andrade move her head to the outside of the leg to avoid the kimura trap Rose was using to counter. It must also be said that Rose doesn't have the power of someone like Weili Zhang, and without the ability to keep the opponent on her heels, Rose may have a hard time controlling the pace of the fight.
To be sure, Andrade will likely have to face down some adversity yet again, and the fact that she only has three rounds to wear on Namajunas is a bit of a concern (though she has won three-round fights in this fashion before), but this price seems out of line when we consider the very real ways Andrade was turning the fight in her favor before the slam occurred.
The Play: Jessica Andrade: +170